A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting the new Telethon Type 1 Diabetes Family Centre in Perth, Western Australia.
It was a Tuesday afternoon in the midst of April school holidays, so I stepped inside cautiously. I could hear a familiar voice calling out to me. I was greeted by General Manager Rebecca Johnson, and by the looks of things I had the place to myself!
Behind the front desk, I met Crystal and Andrea who were wearing fairy wings, and in the middle of a game of Twister. Rest assured, they were only practicing for the centre’s Picnic In The Park outing on Thursday!
Opposite the front desk was a large kitchen, which I was told would be in full swing the next day for the Centre’s Kids In The Kitchen cooking sessions. The kids would be preparing morning tea for their parents, siblings and grandparents who were all welcome to come along.
The place definitely had the vibe of a showroom, which is not too surprising considering that it was furnished by IKEA. As I walked around the place, I would never have guessed that diabetes existed here. It really was just a nice place to chill. If I were a kid, I don’t think Mum and Dad would have to drag me here for check ups. I don’t think my brother and sister would whinge about waiting around for me when they had several play areas to keep them entertained.
I could see Mum and Dad taking a seat in the courtyard with a cuppa. It was definitely a place for the whole family to come to for diabetes support, without so much of a “clinical” feel to it.
The Centre was funded by Telethon, a charity devoted to supporting sick children in Western Australia. The Centre is reliant on community sponsors, donations and volunteers – who are currently developing a playground directly behind those gates in the image above.
One of my burning questions for Rebecca was how a young adult like myself would fit into this place, if at all. The website and branding appears to target young children and families. Adult events at the Centre seem to be targeted specifically for Parents or Carers of type 1 children.
Because the centre was funded by a children’s charity, there are strict criteria from the board in regards to the centre meeting the needs of children. Bec acknowledged the need for support services at the centre catering to young adults, defined as age 16 to 30. Many people, ourselves included, are diagnosed in that age bracket. Bec has recently had success in convincing the board to make the Centre more inclusive for young adults. Opened less than 12 months ago however, the Centre is still evolving.
Young adults and children are welcome at Diabetes Clinics, which run every Friday and Saturday at the centre. Individuals and families are welcome to drop in at any time to access clinical support from a range of diabetes specialists. Support is also available at other times by appointment.
After a tour of the place, Bec and I headed upstairs and took a seat at the conference table. It was pretty cool to learn that we were both diagnosed at age 17 and a few weeks out from our 18th birthdays. Bec has used a range of diabetes devices and gadgets over the years. Currently she uses insulin injections, eats a low carbohydrate diet and uses a Continuous Glucose Monitor from time to time.
I could see how engaged Bec was in the Diabetes Online Community. I was humbled that she stumbled upon my little blog last year after I wrote this post, and took the time to reach out to me. A self confessed lurker, she frequents Twitter for her diabetes news and enjoys reading Insulin Nation and Diabetes Daily – coincidentally sites that I have written for! I also learned that DOC is actually spelt out D-O-C when spoken, rather than pronounced as one word!
One thing that Bec feels really strongly about is the need for young children to come to terms with, and accept their condition. Seeing adults living, and doing great things with type 1 can really inspire the children who come into the Centre. A type 1 diagnosis is not the end.